Thursday, Democrats and Republicans will convene at the President’s request to discuss the way forward on achieving bipartisan health care reform.  In a recent paper, Heritage’s Nina Owcharenko discusses how congressional Democrats and the President can use this meeting to start over on health care reform by enlisting Republicans to pass legislation both sides agree on.

Says Owcharenko, “If the President is sincere and the summit is going to be successful, it must begin by setting aside the highly unpopular bills that the House and Senate have developed. Simply adjusting the magnitude of these proposals or adding new “conservative” provisions as suggested in the President’s latest proposal, does not change their fundamental direction.”

Polls show a majority of Americans stand in opposition to the left’s health care proposals, which fall short of meeting expectations established by promises made by the President. To restore the nation’s trust in Washington, Congress and the President should focus on areas of reform which have bipartisan support.  Owcharenko suggests the following as areas in which to move forward:

State-Based Reform: “Congress should embrace a federal–state partnership that would allow states to develop innovative ways to address their unique health care challenges. The federal government should set broad, national goals and then give wide leeway for states to try different approaches and learn from one another.”

Fixing Broken Entitlements: “Reform should begin with Congress reforming the flawed programs it already controls rather than overhauling one-sixth of the national economy.”  Congress could start by applying the President’s proposal to introduce competitive bidding to Medicare Advantage to all of Medicare, create a level playing field for all Medicare enrollees.

Reforming the Inequitable Tax Treatment of Insurance: “Congress should replace the current tax exclusion with a fairer and more equitable system of universal tax credits. Short of that, Congress should begin to realign the tax breaks for work-based health insurance with other tax-preferred forms of compensation by capping the tax exclusion.”

Targeted Insurance Reforms: “The current health insurance rules do not work for everyone, but the solution is not for the federal government to take over private health insurance…Congress can correct the gaps in the current system to make the market work better for those it serves without destroying the market for others.”

Americans are not concerned with the degree of reform that the left is seeking; they are concerned with the direction.  It is not too late for lawmakers to start over with incremental reform that will give Americans, not the government, more control of their health care.